Logitech has taken a big, bold swing with their newest gaming keyboards. The G815 steps away from the Romer-G mechanical switches that have defined Logitech's boards for years in favor of shockingly low-profile "GL" switches. Along with the low-profile switches comes a totally new structural design for the board, and a total package that looks unlike anything we've seen from Logitech before.
But Logitech is also taking a big swing with the premium price with these new boards: $199 for the G815, and $249 for the G915 (which is the same keyboard with wireless functionality added). That price rivals or exceeds the most expensive mainstream boards from any of Logitech's major competitors - so are the bold new boards worth the extra dollars?
This review will focus on the G815 with the GL Tactile switch, but will also touch on the new G915 (the same keyboard, only wireless) and the new GL Linear and GL Clicky switches. Both the G815 and G915 are available now on Newegg, GameCrate's parent site.
The body of the G815 is a flat plane made of an aluminum alloy that can look dark grey or a subtle blue, depending on the lighting conditions of your room. Don't let the "aluminum" in the material fool you though - this board has enough heft and weight to it to avoid slipping around on your desk, and doesn't feel like it would break or crack without a serious blow. The body resists fingerprints well, and isn't very reflective, which means you don't get much in the way of bouncing underglow from the RGB lights.
The keycaps themselves are a typical plastic, obviously shallower than caps for traditional mechanical keys to fit the low profile. After a few days of use the spacebar was lamentably smudgy from thumbprints, but no more so than that of hundreds of other keyboards with caps made of similar material.
The G815 is without a doubt the flattest non-membrane keyboard I've ever had my hands on (you can see it compared to Logitech's classic G710 in the photo above), and it feels like it takes up a strikingly small amount of space on the desk because of it. It's a full size board with a numpad and even a line of dedicated gaming keys, and isn't actually much smaller than other boards, in terms of width and length. But swapping out a Corsair K95, complete with wrist rest and full-height mechanical keys, for the G815 left me feeling like I just had more room to move things around without my keyboard being an obstacle.
The weakest design elements on the G815 come in the form of its media control keys and volume wheel. All of these elements function just fine, but the rubbery media buttons and the insubstantial plastic of the volume wheel feel out of step with the high-quality and sleek aesthetic of the rest of the board. It also bothered me that the volume wheel had no tactile click to it, despite having the apperance of slight grooves on its surface.
Typing on the G815 with the new GL Tactile switches feels fantastic. The shorter travel time of the low-profile switches immediately makes it feel like you're typing faster, and once you get used to the new board that's likely to actually be the case, for most experienced typists, if you're coming from a more traditional mechanical switch.
Critically, the GL Tactile switches provide the sound and physical feedback that make mechanical switches so popular, and you feel much more certain of each keystroke than you would with a membrane keyboard. It really does feel like the best of bost worlds.
The ultra-flat nature of the board takes some getting used to, but it feels like a very pleasant break compared to incline of typical mechanical keyboards (and it's probably better for your wrist health, though if you really want something ergonomic you should probably be using a split keyboard). If the totally flat board is too much of a change for you, then you can ease into it thanks to the well-designed riser feet underneath the top edge of the board, which offer two different modest height options.
The only comfort feature I felt was missing on this board was the lack of a wrist rest - but I'm probably spoiled coming straight from the Corsair K95. Because of the low height of this board your palms and wrists are likely to spend a lot of time resting on your desk directly, and a little bit of included padding or support would have been nice - though if it would have meant raising the price further, it wouldn't have been worth it.
For $199 spent on the G815 you get full RGB lighting, programmable gaming/macro keys, a USB 2.0 passthrough port, media keys, a volume wheel, and mechanical switches. The biggest highlight here that we haven't discussed yet has to be the RGB lighting, becauase Logitech's G HUB software offers some of the most impressive lighting options on the market. Pre-programmed animations available for the G815 include things like a moving sine wave, sun rays beaming off the G logo in the corner, a wave crashing on a beach, and even a Tron-inspired race between blue and orange lines - all playing out on your keyboard.
G HUB also offers audio reactive lighting, along with the most game-changing thing to happen to peripheral lighting in years: LIGHTSYNC. We covered this feature when it debuted in Logitech's speakers last year, but in brief: Logitech's software allows you to set up easy screen sampling so your peripherals, like your new G815 keyboard, automatically change colors to match whatever is on your screen. Any game, any video, any photo, whatever you want - and it all happens on the fly. You can even split your keyboard into multiple zones, so the right side of your board reflects the right side of your screen. It's amazing to see in action, and until other peripheral companies catch up, it's a serious edge for Logitech's gaming gear.
The new GL switches come in three types, tactile, cliky, and linear, which look to be custom versions of Kaihl's low-profile Choc switch line. Low-profile switches are never going to have the same degree of tactile, gamer-friendly feedback as full-size ones, but these come closer than any I've ever had my hands on before. The G815 Tactile feels miles better than any similarly thin keyboard, which will almost universally be a membrane or "mem-chanical" option at these dimensions.
For ultra fast-paced shooters you're still probably going to want the security of deeper, traditional mechanical switches - but if you do a lot of non-FPS gaming or plenty of typing, the G815 in Tactile or Clicky is an easy recommendation. The Linear option, though, is decidedly not for me. Even though it was technically a mechanical switch, it felt mushy and membranical - and not like something I would ever want to pay $200 for.
As with all switches, your mileage may vary - but the Tactile and Clicky options are in a different league from the Linear, in my opinion. For a chance to see and hear all the new switches in action, check out the video at the bottom of this review.
The G915: All the same stuff, but wireless
The G915 offers everything that the G815 does, but for $50 more you get to take advantage of Logitech's acclaimed LIGHTSPEED wireless technology. Logitech proved a lot of doubters wrong when they started putting out wireless gaming mice with LIGHTSPEED tech a few years ago, and aside from the occasional technical hiccup, performance is solid and reliable, with such little latency that it might as well be nonexistent.
Logitech claims the G915 can run for 30 hours after a three hour charge before it needs to be plugged in again, which means it could be an option to consider for couch gaming or other setups where wires are impractical. Compared to a wireless gaming mouse, however, the appeal of the wireless G915 keyboard is much more limited. With a mouse you have to deal with cord drag, so even people who game right in front of their systems might want a wireless alternative. But if you're sitting at your desk, near your gaming PC, there's very little reason to pay the extra $50 for the wireless functionality the G915 offers.
If you want to play PC games on your couch using a keyboard, get the Roccat Sova. That's the best way to do it.